Saturday, May 31, 2008

Singapore Airlines Shows the Way to Private Airliners in India

Dear Friends,

So, there has been a lot of resentment within the scheduled and non-scheduled airlines in India represented by FIA (Federation of Indian Airlines) on services to be provided to the Disabled passengers in terms of New DGCA's CAR that got issued recently. The FIA even put their comments on the DGCA's CAR on their website available at link http://www.fiaindia.in/Carriage_ofpersons_reduced_mobility.htm

As discussed and pointed out in previous posts that the airlines in India want to retain the authority to charge for the services they might provide to users with disabilties, that too when requested!

I see a very good example set up by the Singapore Airlines which in fact should be a a good lesson to the Indian lobby of airliners. It is further encouraging to note that the Singapore Airlines would soon be launching 'Solidarity Campaign,' an awareness drive aimed at creating an Inclusive society for the disabled.

I wish the FIA (Federation of Indian Airlines) could take such an initiative so that the frequent complaints, denial of rights and exchange of unpleasant views towards each other gets resolved. People with Disability would love to have such welcoming Airlines in India too!

For now, Kudos to Vidyasagar at Chennai for such an innovative partnerning and hats off to Singapore Airlines for showing the corporate airliners in India a better way of promoting their goodwill!

You can read the full articles at:

http://www.svayam.com/?q=node/695
http://www.svayam.com/?q=node/697


warm regards

Subhash Chandra Vashishth

Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Blatant Disregard to DGCA's CAR and denial of Human Rights

Dear Friends,

This time it is Spicejet. Denying human rights, mistreating passengers with disabilities and then getting away with a simple apology! That seems to be the new modus operandi of the airliners who continue to flout the DGCA's New Car with impunity!

This is just not done!. How long is it to continue! We can't take it any more!

Read the News here:
Paraplegic abandoned in aircraft
Rahul Singh, Hindustan, New Delhi, May 25, 2008

It was a rather turbulent flight for paraplegic tennis player Salil Chaturvedi, who represented India in wheelchair tennis at the Australian Open in Melbourne. On Friday night’s Chennai-to-Delhi SpiceJet flight, he was not provided his wheelchair to disembark from the aircraft and was left cramped in his seat for over an hour.
On Thursday, when Chaturvedi flew SpiceJet to Chennai, he was neither offered priority boarding nor an aisle chair to board the plane. His urine bag was also yanked off. He told HT, “I was carried along the aisle by untrained porters like a sack of potatoes, while I tried to keep my trousers from slipping and closed my eyes to save myself from the embarrassment, as all passengers turned to look at me.”
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation rulebook, effective from May 1, stipulates that a passenger’s wheelchair should be returned to him at the time of disembarking. It is mandatory for every operator to provide ambulifts to enable disabled passengers embark/disembark the aircraft. But despite this, the crew insisted that Chaturvedi use the airline wheelchair. “They wouldn’t understand how I have spent the last two months recovering from an airline wheelchair fall at the Bombay airport,” Chaturvedi said.
SpiceJet regional manager (north) Rahul Bhatkoti said, “We have apologised to the passenger and will take corrective action. Clearly, the crew lacked awareness.” Chaturvedi, who has acted in a Feisal Alkazi play and the Indian adaptation of Sesame Street, was offered Coke after the trauma ended. “I have stopped drinking Coke. Not wanting to hurt their sensibilities, I took a sip and threw the rest when they weren’t looking,” he said.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=ad2d3a50-e5eb-462d-a9e3-cc8ed823eaa6&&Headline=Paraplegic+abandoned+in+aircraft+

Regards

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
09811125521

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DGCA's CAR Guideline on Carriage by air of Passengers with disability and reduced mobility - finally enforced but with qualifications

Dear Friends

Finally the 8th draft dated 24th April 2008 has seen the light of the day after the Ministry of Civil Aviation cleared it to become the new CAR Guideline on Carriage of People with Disabilities and People with Reduced Mobility effective 01st May 2008. This can also be accessed by clicking here: CAR Guideline. We must thank Mr. Kanu Gohain, the Director General of Civil Aviation who had followed very constructive and participatory approach while devising these CAR guidelines where the disability groups including Svayam, deliberated on the content of the CAR word by word. It is but for his open and democratic way of finalizing this CAR that we see 15 good points and only 7 lacunae in the CAR.

Here is a brief assessment of the New CAR viz. Good Points and Issues that still needs to be addressed (Loop Holes). There might be few other areas that I might have left and you may be able to point them out.

I would request you to kindly provide your inputs so that we jointly can fight for rectifying the shortcomings together.


Good Points included in the DGCA’s New CAR
effective 01 May 2008

1. To remove confusion between People with disabilities/People with Reduced Mobility and Sick/medically ill passengers, the new CAR has defined the Incapacitated Passengers as those with medical condition and Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) and Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) as those whose mobility is impaired/reduced when using transport (Ref Section 3).
2. It mandates that no airlines will refuse to carry PwD/PRM and their assistive aids/devices, escorts & Guide Dogs.
3. Emergency Evacuation procedures and Training on handling PwD/PRM shall be included in Airline’s Training & Safety manuals.
4. Only trained persons shall be assigned to assist and handling the passengers with disabilities.
5. All Airlines will assist those who wish to travel alone without an escort (Ref. para 4.8)
6. Barrier Free Access, accessible toilets and Assistance Booths close to the entrance (within visible proximity at arrival/departure terminals) with International symbol of Disability at the Airport are mandated in 4.10
7. No limit on number of PwD on a flight. Equal choice of seat allocation.
8. No medical Clearances of special forms shall be insisted from PwD/PRM.
9. All assistive aids shall be provided without any extra costs to the passengers.
10. Pwds/PRMs including Blind passengers shall not be restricted to any particular cabin or seating areas. Guide Dogs are allowed in the Cabin with prior information.
11. Individual briefing to PRM/PwDs /their escorts before take off by senior cabin crew of airline. Blind passengers to be provided Braille brochures and large print brochures besides verbal briefing.
12. Once ticket is confirmed, no further enquiries shall be made (Para 9.5).
13. In case of loss or damage to the mobility equipment during storage and handling, the airlines shall be liable for providing suitable compensation.
14. Assistive Aids and Devices can be carried as hand baggage in the aircraft (Ref: note to para 7.5)
15. In-transit offloading- in case of overnight halt, the accommodation provided should be accessible and barrier free.


Issues that need to be addressed:

1. Para 4.6 “Passengers who declare independence in feeding, Communication with reasonable accommodation, toileting and personal needs are allowed to travel without escort.” This section is discriminatory against people who require some support in areas of feeding and personal needs etc and it gives a right to airlines to disallow the passengers to fly, if they don’t declare independence. We feel that this para looses its relevance in light of para 4.8 which is an enabling and positive para. Thus in view of this para 4.6 should be deleted in toto.

2. Para 4.9 -People not holding any Disability Certificate also to be given all facilities but at a cost. – This is not acceptable since Government of India has so far has failed to provide Disability Certificates to all the disabled population and many do not go to obtain one due to ridiculous and time consuming procedures. Hence, this condition will adversely affect them for no fault of theirs. Also the Airliners have been providing free services to the elderly people who seek much more assistance and support that what a blind passenger might seek. Thus this would amount to discrimination on the basis of disability and we strongly recommend that no additional fee should be charged from any one.

3. Provisions regarding charges for Human assistance are not acceptable as devised by 6.1 (a). By doing so the person with disability would be put on a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis his non-disabled counterparts and would amount to “Discrimination on the basis of Disability” and also against principle of “reasonable accommodation” thus contravenes Article 9 of UNCRPD.


4. There is an inherent contradiction in para 6 of the CAR Guideline: While Opening words are “All assistive aids shall be provided without any extra cost to the passengers.” The first sub para 6(a) provides a loop hole by declaring that “Any charges for human assistance, if required, may be levied by the Airlines.” Similarly sub para 6.4 (b) seeks to charge for narrow wheelchair type aisle chairs which are without armrests and can be moved about in the passenger cabin and can be used for internal mobility by persons with reduced mobility. It says “Any nominal charge in this regard, if levied, shall be paid by the passenger.” The narrow width of the passage in the aeroplane is a design fault and not the fault of wheelchair user. If the present passage could accommodate the personal wheelchairs then aisle chairs would not be needed in its first place. Thus the users should not be penalized /charged for the design fault. It is recommended that for all future procurements of aircraft, the passage, toilets etc having access features should be invariably provided. Till then the aisle chairs should be provided without any costs.

5. The above charges under 6,4(b) also contradict para 9.1 (Assistance on the plane) which provides that All airlines should assist a passenger with disability to get to the toilet. Any PRM would eventually need an aisle chair for internal mobility including reaching toilet. It also contradict para 4.8 which says “All airlines shall provide necessary assistance to PwDs/PRM who wish to travel alone without an escort.

6. Charges for Assistance in Disembarkation at point of transfer and /or destination: In para 7.7 the airline seeks to charge a nominal amount for request for assistance in baggage delivery and getting out of the airport. This is absolutely unnecessary and not acceptable. Any charge for assistance in getting the baggage delivered to a blind person, for example, would put him to disadvantage just because he can not see and needs help to locate his/her baggage! Doesn’t this amount to discrimination?

7. Complaint Procedure – The role of an external agency has not been provided. No time limit for complaint redressal has been given. Earlier, the complaints used to go to the DGCA, CCPD. Now in case of any infringement of the CAR, the user can access the managing body of airlines/airports only who have never in past done any better thing than apologizing- sometimes in person and sometimes in public! Thus we feel that there could be a Grievance Handling Body consisting of members from all scheduled and non-scheduled airliners at a single window as it would be difficult to chase different airlines individually and one would shift the blame on the other in case failure of interline coordination is being reported. Also there should be a time limit for redressal of complaint failing which appeal to DGCA and CCPD should lie.

Regards

Subhash Chandra Vashishth